RAW: Joey LaLeggia | Ben Betker | Tyler Vesel | COMING LATER: McDavid 1-on-1 | In Focus
Oilers defenceman prospect Joey LaLeggia is attending his fourth Orientation Camp with the Oilers but with one huge difference this year: he will be playing professional hockey this upcoming season after four years at the University of Denver.
“It’s great to come in here and meet the staff and meet the guys that you hope to one day be suiting up with,” he began.
“It’s a great experience for all of us and great to meet everybody and get comfortable. I feel that every time I come here I get more comfortable and also get more confident.”
LaLeggia, a native of Burnaby, B.C., accumulated 132 points (49-83-132) in 156 games, over four seasons with the University of Denver Pioneers. He helped his team reach the NCAA Regional Finals this season.
“I was a player who needed to go to college. When I was 16 or 17 I think I was only 140 or 150 pounds. College really did a lot for me. The person I stepped onto campus as a 19-year old and the person I left as a 23-year old are two completely different people. I feel a lot more mature and I feel those are life experiences I’ll take with me forever. It prepared me to come to pro hockey and gave me an opportunity to go to Oklahoma City after the season.”
LaLeggia's game translated well to the pro level despite him having a bit of an adjustment period.
“That was a huge learning experience for me, just seeing the level that my game had to go to in order to be successful.”
He played five regular season games, netting a goal and an assist for two points and also suited up for two playoff contests. LaLeggia looks to play a much bigger role next season on the Bakersfield Condors in the AHL.
“It was a pretty crucial time in the season when I got there,” said LaLeggia. “I think I got there with about five games before the playoffs started. It was a completely different style from what I was used to. I found it was a lot more structured and a lot more controlled. Guys knew exactly where to be and when to be there. As colleges I felt it was a lot more run-and-gun and we only played two games a week. Guys are super jacked-up to play come Friday and Saturday whereas (in pro) they do it every day. They know exactly where to be. They’re always prepared and that was the biggest thing for me, just learning how to be a pro.”
RAW: McDavid | Draisaitl | Nurse | Kyle Platzer | Greg Chase | Rick Carriere
Coming off a successful 2014-15 season in which he scored 34 goals and 81 points in 68 games with the OHL's Owen Sound Attack, Kyle Platzer looks to make even greater strides heading into what is expected to be his first full professional campaign in 2015-16.
“It was a good step in the right direction and definitely encouraging going forward. Hopefully I’ll turn pro this season and just build off last season,” he said.
After his OHL season ended, he moved on to the AHL's Oklahoma City Barons where he contributed with two goals in four regular season games to end the season and suited up for three more contests in the postseason.
“It was awesome. You always wonder what it’s like up there and just want to show your best. It was good to pot a few and get some confidence up there. Leading into this summer, it was awesome for me.”
Oilers prospect Darnell Nurse talked about the large turnout -- close to 2,500 -- at Rexall Place to watch the third day at Orientation Camp.
“It was awesome. It was great to have the support of the fans out there. It shows how passionate of a city this place is for hockey and how hungry they are for the season coming up,” Nurse began.
“It’s exciting for everyone to go out there and see the type of support we get.”
Nurse was also asked about the contract of Connor McDavid, who signed his three-year entry-level deal earlier today.
“It’s a really special moment. It’s cool to be rewarded for all the work you’ve done,” said Nurse. “It’s something he should be very proud of and definitely something he earned.”
Caleb Jones couldn't help but be awestruck when he walked into the Oilers dressing room for the first time yesterday.
“I was walking into the locker room for the first time, getting my equipment fitted and I sat down in the stall and I looked around, thinking ‘it’s the Edmonton Oilers’ it’s one of the greatest organizations ever,” Jones exclaimed, adding that his experience so far at camp has been nothing but positive.
“It’s been great so far. It’s been an exciting Development Camp. Two days after the draft was a quick turnaround for me but I’m excited to be here and I’m learning a lot already from the organization.”
The brother of Nashville Predators defenceman Seth Jones added that being selected in the same draft as Connor McDavid is something he'll always hold onto.
“You’ve just got to show up and work hard every day,” Jones continued. “He’s a great player and he’s going to play in the league for years to come. It’s pretty cool being drafted (with him). You’ll always be remembered as being part of the Connor McDavid Draft Class with the Edmonton Oilers.”
Jones also added that he was looking forward to building camaraderie with McDavid and his other future NHL teammates.
“It’s a team. You really become a team here and it builds up to when you get to the big leagues. I see a lot of guys like Nurse who have been here for awhile and they’re good friends. I think over time you start to be around each other every day like that, you start to become friends and it gets a lot easier.”
Ethan Bear, selected in the fifth round, 124th overall, by the Oilers at the NHL Draft this past weekend in Florida, had some advice from Craig MacTavish shortly after accepting his jersey at the table.
“MacTavish said ‘one step at a time, just keep working’,” said Bear. “It’s important to work on things you can when you’re on the ice and when you’re off the ice get stronger.”
Hard work is a mantra for Bear, a right-shooting defenceman who had 38 points in 69 games this past season with the WHL's Seattle Thunderbirds.
“Just work hard, when you’re on the ice, compete,” he said. “Try and earn your spot and keep working hard is the main thing. You might have to get out of your comfort zone and do things different on the ice but mainly for now it’s only Development Camp so I’m going to have some fun and make myself better.”
Hailing from Ochapowace, Saskatchewan -- near Regina -- Bear said that the reaction back at home was very positive.
“I think they’re pretty happy over there and so am I. A lot of my family congratulated me.”
Orientation Camp: Connor McDavid | Darnell Nurse | Leon Draisaitl
Stories & Analysis: The Panel on Free Agency & McDavid | In Focus: Free Agency Day
More Free Agency: Chiarelli | Mark Letestu Interview & Highlights | Letestu Interview on 630 CHED
For the first time, first-overall pick Connor McDavid stepped onto the ice at Rexall Place.
"Today was a lot of fun," said McDavid. "The fitness testing wasn't a whole lot of fun but really cool to throw on the Oilers gear, the gear that I want to play the rest of my life wearing. It was pretty cool to put it on. With all the history, it was a lot of fun."
It was a power skating lesson, which McDavid thought was very good for both himself and the other prospects.
"That circle stuff, one foot, a lot of edges. I thought it was really good," he said. "Skating is so important. You've always got to be working on it so it was good we got a chance to do that."
The centre was asked about how it feels to be in Edmonton and now be part of an NHL organization.
"It's going to take a little while for it to sink in. It still feels surreal. It's hard to picture being part of an NHL organization, never mind the Edmonton Oilers with such a storied background.
"I visited a couple weeks ago and I've only been here a little bit now. It's a great city. It seems really nice. I'm really enjoying it."
At the end of Wednesday's practice, Darnell Nurse selected Connor McDavid as the practice's first star. The 'first star' is a tradition which has carried on from Oklahoma City where the player previously selected first star chooses someone else at the end of practice with all players around the centre ice circle. The chosen one then has to take a lap around the ice.
With no prior first star, with Nurse's OKC experience, Fleming selected him as the one to pass the torch. Nurse, of course, selected McDavid.
"I'm not picking on him, I just let him do a lap," Nurse chuckled. "It was fun out there. It was something we did in OKC when Gerry (Fleming) was on the ice. He asked 'who will do first star?' and I said 'I'll do it for you' and we had a little fun."
McDavid said that he saw the selection coming from a mile away.
"Me and Nurse, we're good buddies. I saw it coming when they said they were doing that. It was a lot of fun," McDavid stated.
Nurse said he's excited to have McDavid as his teammate at the NHL level.
"Thank God I don't have to play against him anymore," he laughed. "He's a special player. Any time you get the opportunity to add a guy like that to your team, it makes the organization a lot better," Nurse noted. "We played against each other and battled against each other for a few years now and had the opportunity to play together at World Juniors. Not only is he a great player, he's a great guy. It's always good to joke around with him and have some fun."
The big defenceman said that the atmosphere around the team has been very positive in camp so far.
"It's really exciting. You can tell everyone is upbeat, looking forward to September and October. I'm looking forward to do what I can to make the team."
As for his own personal goals for next season? Nurse simply wants to make the team.
"My goal is definitely to come in here and earn a job. I just have to go out there and work as hard as I can. I can only control what I do."
"I've known him for about 24 hours now so there's not much I can say," Draisaitl remarked. "All I can say is he seems like a very nice, very humble guy and obviously everybody knows what he's capable of on the ice. He's a special guy and I think the whole organization should be very excited about him."
Draisaitl was also excited about some of the moves the Oilers have made in the past week, bringing in defencemen Eric Gryba, Andrej Sekera and Griffin Reinhart, goaltender Cam Talbot and forwards Lauri Korpikoski and Mark Letestu.
"It's pretty hard to miss those acquisitions and trades we've made. I think it's good. We're doing the right moves and now it's time to get ready for the season."
As for himself, the goal hasn't changed for Draisiatl as he looks to make the team next season. Being his second Orientation Camp, however, he is taking on a bigger role within the group.
"I have to try and take more leadership than I did last year. Obviously, it's my second year but at the same time I'm coming in with the same mindset as I did last year. I want to be here and I want to play on this team. It's going to be the same mindset as last year."
AUDIO: Griffin Reinhart Interview
Edmonton Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli announced the club has traded the 16th and 33rd overall picks in the 2015 NHL Draft to the New York Islanders, in exchange for defenceman Griffin Reinhart.
Very excited to be a part of oil country once again!— Griffin Reinhart (@GriffinReinhart) June 27, 2015
Reinhart was taken 4th overall in the 2012 NHL Entry by the Islanders. He has played eight NHL games, all during the 2014-15 season, registering one assist, six penalty minutes and a +1 rating.
The 6’4’’, 217-pound blueliner made his NHL debut on October 10, 2014 in Carolina.
Reinhart is the former captain of the Edmonton Oil Kings, where he played 209 games and recorded 30 goals and 81 assists for 111 points. He had 164 penalty minutes and a +83 rating.
He captained the Oil Kings to a 2014 Memorial Cup Championship.
In 57 playoff games with the Oil Kings, Reinhart recorded nine goals and 19 assists, 56 penalty minutes and a plus-minus of +27.
Griffin is the son of former Calgary Flames defenceman Paul Reinhart and the brother of Flames centre Max and Buffalo Sabres centre Sam Reinhart.
WATCH DIRECTLY IN YOUTUBE
Oilers President of Hockey Operations and General Manager Peter Chiarelli addressed s the media on Friday morning at 8:00 a.m. MDT. If you missed it, you can watch the full archive above.